In 1956, the trend of often cheap, nuclear age, space-obsessed monster and "science fiction" movies got a historic shot-in-the-arm with the release of FORBIDDEN PLANET. This loose adaptation of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST stars character actor Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis as the intellectually enhanced Morbius and his daughter Altaira, the last survivors of a doomed expedition to the world on which they have lived (and studied) for the last 20 years until Captain Adams and crew arrive in their literal flying saucer to investigate and launch a rescue mission... all on behalf of an Earth-based organization which strongly resembles what would be the Federation of Gene Roddenberry's STAR TREK. Played by the late Leslie Neilsen in an early role far removed from the farcical comedies for which he would be most remembered, the quintessentially earnest, hardworking, and stalwart Commander Adams just barely avoids falling into the category of the purely 2-dimensional senior space ranger in the film's dramatic and revealing final act that sees him as both accuser and potential redeemer to Morbius and his work.
Despite a then-long, 2 year development and production in which the director and crew went above and beyond studio expectations, FORBIDDEN PLANET failed to impress mid-fifties audiences. For a long time, its most enduring legacy was Robbie the Robot, a quirky 50's robot beholden to Asimov's 3 Laws which the studio nevertheless depicted menacingly in many if not all of the movie's ads. In the last 20 to 30 years, however, the movie's cult following has turned into a lasting respect for this crucial, yet initially unacknowledged step forward in science fiction film making. Until a few years ago, stories of writers and directors launching remakes popped up all the time, but whatever happened, this would-be mega-franchise seems mysteriously absent when it comes to studio priorities.
With STAR TREK and particularly STAR WARS roaring back into theaters, presumably bigger and better than ever, a re-envisioning and relaunching of this pop/sci-fi myth could easily capitalize on the big-budget, feature film spin-offs, sequels, and prequels based on properties directly inspired by the 1956 original. Here are concepts for 3 films in a potential trilogy which could end up creating a universe with a wealth of potential - including intersection with another franchise based on Isaac Asimov's literary "Empire" trilogy!
1. MORBIUS (OF THE FORBIDDEN PLANET) - With his beloved mother on her deathbed, philologist Edward Morbius and his fiance Julie join the crew of the Belerephon in pursuit of a rumored cure on a faraway, unexplored planet. When word of the mother's death reaches them en route, the driven and obsessive Morbius finds solace and distraction in the planet's possibilities and the legacy of its original, yet long-extinct inhabitants left behind in the form of their incredible technology. As Morbius and his reluctant wife fight for permission to stay behind and continue their work, the dark side of the extinct civilization's incredible legacy is uncovered and manifests itself in the form of a mysterious, unstoppable, and deadly force that begins taking out the Belerephon crew!
2. FORBIDDEN PLANET (Remake/Sequel) - Twenty years ago, the Belerephon set out to explore the newly discovered planet Altair... and never returned. With no clues to what happened or evidence of the crew's status, the popular Earth space hero and reluctant Commander Adams is called away from his "early retirement" to lead a new crew on a 2 year rescue and salvage operation to Altair. There, they encounter a pair of unlikely survivors in Edward Morbius and his daughter Altaira, who seem to have not only lived but thrived alone on the planet, thanks largely to the massive amount of advanced technology left by the planet's extinct original inhabitants. Besides Morbius, his daughter, and a custom-built robot made from technological scraps, nothing remains or appears to have survived of the Belerephon ship or its crew, represented only by a small graveyard behind Morbius' colonial home. Strangely, though, the long-widowed Morbius adamantly refuses to return to Earth, even when his gorgeous yet naive daughter falls in love with Commander Adams. Despite showing them to Adams and his crew, Morbius also refuses to share the technological advances he has discovered. When the same violent patterns begin to form again, Adams and crew come to suspect that Morbius' vaunted, intelligence-enhancing technology may have contributed to the tragic end of the planet's original civilization... and of the Belerephon and the rest of its crew.
3. CURSE OF THE FORBIDDEN PLANET - Shades of THE OMEN hover over this surprising third act! Having finally been granted the early retirement he was promised, Commander Adams has returned an even bigger celebrity and public figure than he was when he left. Influential forces are pressuring him to run for public office even as he faces continued scrutiny for "failing" to rescue Morbius and bring back more evidence and answers, as well as for his relationship with Morbius' daughter Altaira, now 7 months pregnant and plagued with nightmares that further strain their relationship. On the eve of Adams' public announcement about whether or not he'll seek office, a public official and outspoken critic is found murdered after the Adams' seemingly benevolent robot inexplicably disappears for a day only to be found "unresponsive" in an alley near the dead official's home! To make matters worse, Altaira goes into labor and gives premature birth to their son, who barely clings to life despite the best care. As an official investigation begins, public scrutiny intensifies as one by one, critics of Adams, his family, and crew are found murdered in a pattern eerily similar to that of the Belerephon and the deaths of Adams' closest friends and colleagues on the forbidden planet. Sure enough, Altaira comes to a horrifying conclusion after realizing that her last nightmare came as the first murder took place... mere hours before their son's premature birth. Could there have been a genetic component to Morbius' technologically endowed, subconscious ability to use the same alien technology that comprises the robot Robbie to bring his own Id to life and seek vengeance on those threatening him? Could it now have been passed on - not to Altaira, but to she and Adam's innocent newborn son?